Building responsibly in a climate emergency

We spoke to a B Corp architectural practice about their journey to net zero emissions.

COP26 Floating House

B Corps are leading the way when it comes to achieving net zero, with more than 1,000 committing to get there by 2030. Stride Treglown is an employee-owned architectural practice and a proud B Corp. Their network of 9 regional offices means they are embedded in the communities that we work and live in.

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. As such, a particular set of obstacles are met by architectural practices on the journey to reaching net zero emissions. We caught up with Stride Treglown to find out how they have met these sector-specific challenges. See what their Head of Sustainability, Rob Delius, had to say.

After offsetting over 322 tonnes of carbon from our location based scope 1 and 2++ carbon footprint, this is the first year that Stride Treglown is operationally carbon neutral.

We have achieved our carbon neutral status through a culmination of changes made to our working practices and offices. Significant reductions in our energy consumption — including refurbishment of offices with incorporation of renewables, changing to low energy lighting and lower energy office equipment — have been implemented and we have transferred most of our utilities to green tariffs.

We’re proud to say our data has been independently verified by The Future Economy Network and we have signed the United Nations’ Climate Neutral Now Pledge which, much like our B Corp certification, is an ongoing commitment to measure, reduce, contribute to, and report on future progress.

Where necessary, we have begun responsibly offsetting surplus emissions. We have chosen to directly offset our remaining carbon through Trees for Life, a UK based organisation accredited by the Woodland Carbon Code, which for tree offsetting schemes is equivalent to Gold Standard. Our trees will help enable the restoration of the globally unique Caledonian Forest, which once covered much of Scotland.

Rob Delius, Head Of Sustainability At Stride Treglown

When businesses declare they are carbon neutral (net zero CO2 emissions) this typically means that they have offset their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions. Best practice is when companies take a scope 1–2+ approach, which means that both scopes 1 and 2 are balanced through reductions and offsets where necessary, with certain scope 3 emissions cherry picked and included in the offsetting.

We have gone further and included all scope 3 emissions, with the exception of purchasing, in our calculations. Purchasing includes emissions from sub consultants and therefore raises disputes regarding whom the carbon belongs to.

The route to net zero carbon demands a holistic view of the carbon impacts of our buildings (see more on the impact of the Built Environment here). It means consideration of the implications of material selection, construction, energy, maintenance, and use beyond end of life. Recognising this, we are committed to strengthening our working practices to create architecture and urbanism that has a more positive impact on the world around us. We have been investing in the tools and advanced training to begin that transformation now. Through industry-specific tools such as Passivhaus, Life Cycle Assessment or Building with Nature methodologies we can measure the quantitative impact enabling us to design demonstrably higher quality places for people and the planet.

Focusing on carbon reduction programmes, prioritising the use of renewables, utilising responsible, sustainable resources and energy, reduction in waste and considering modern methods of construction, and Woodland Carbon Code certified offsetting are all ways in which our B Corp and social value frameworks define environmentally responsible practice.

There are great projects, of course, such as our low carbon student residences at University of the West of England, which will be one of the largest Passivhaus developments in the world.

Aside from the impacts made by our buildings, travel accounts for a significant proportion of our carbon footprint. Most of it relates to project and inter-office communication. The pandemic lockdown has shown us that we can reduce this impact. To encourage low carbon car travel, we have created an electric car salary sacrifice scheme and are currently investigating EV car hire opportunities. We are continuing to review all our office’s active transport facilities.

The Stride Treglown Team

Achieving carbon neutrality is one of many steps we are taking to embrace the net zero carbon agenda.

As designers, our main focus currently is to upskill our workforce and support our clients to understand and adopt a sustainable approach to designing, delivering and using buildings. We are passionate advocates for Passivhaus and low carbon design and are proud to be leading innovative projects such as Gwynfaen and UWE’s Low Carbon Residences. By engaging and collaborating with the wider industry, we designers have an opportunity to challenge conventionality and actively influence future legislation to ensure a greener future for all.

Open up to as much advice as you can.

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